Pennfield Ridge War Memorial Service
Planned For September 26th

by G. Christian Larsen

PENNFIELD – The Pennfield Parish Military Historical Society will host a memorial service in September to remember all those who served and/or worked at two major military bases in the area during the Second World War - the Pennfield Ridge Air Station and A-30 Canadian Infantry Training Center (Camp Utopia).

The two bases were an important part of the Canadian war effort. Aircrews from Canada, Britain, New Zealand and Australia trained at Pennfield Ridge as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). Sixty-nine airmen, one British seaman (passenger aboard a Ventura aircraft when it crashed) and six civilian workers died during the history of the base.

Numerous young aircrew students, like those at Pennfield Ridge, were killed in training crashes across Canada during World War II. They all died in the service of their country while preparing for war and yet they remain forgotten heroes. They remain so simply because they died before their finest hour. However as G/C Anthony Leach, Officer Commanding Pennfield Ridge, once remarked to a mother of one of the airmen killed: "He has died…in the course of duty and on active service, and has given his life for his country, just as much as if he had been killed in actual combat against the enemy; and, as I hope you will do, you are undoubtedly entitled to treasure and take pride in his memory accordingly."

Assault troops trained at nearby Camp Utopia that, at the time, was one of the best-equipped and most effective Army training centers in all of Canada. This was borne out by the gallant actions of the Carleton & York Regiment in Sicily and Italy and the North Shore Battalion and N.B. Rangers in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, all of whom were principally made up of personnel receiving their advanced training at Utopia. The base official closed 30 April 1946, but continued to operate mainly as a summer camp until 1957. Six army personnel died at the base between 1943 and 1952. A seventh name of an army personnel killed in 1954 will be read into the “Roll of Honour” at this year’s service.

It is said over 300 officers and 12,000 rank and file had passed through Camp Utopia by its official closing on April 30, 1946. W Garnett Eldridge, resident of Caithness, was one of the six known army personnel trained at Camp Utopia who later was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery.  Some of the Charlotte County natives who received training at Camp Utopia but were subsequently killed in over-seas action were: Cpl. Thomas A. Beckerton (St. Andrews), Pte. Philip G. Corning (Milltown), Gunner Rufus M Hooper (Back Bay), Pte. Lawson H Searles (Campobello) and Pte. Maurice Thorne (St. George).

The service is being dedicated to those Veterans we've lost since last year's service, namely Elmer Bulman, MiD (RCAF), John C. Crammond (RCAF), Nevin Fliby (RAAF), Albert Norton, MiD (RCAF), Cyrille Poissant  (RCAF), Arthur Stainforth (RAFVR), John Spear (RCA), Herbert Swazey (RCA), Clifton Thorne (RCA) and Clifford Warner (RCA), and to all the others who have put their lives on the line to keep our country free.

Please join with us in honouring the seventy-seven (77) service personnel and six (6) civilians killed at these two Charlotte County bases; remember those who have since gone on to join their comrades in the sky and listen to the stories from those we still have with us.

The memorial service will take place Sunday, September 26th at the Provincial Park, Pennfield Ridge (across Route 1 from the Pennfield Ridge Post Office) at 2 pm. A reception service will follow at The Royal Canadian Legion (Branch #40), St. George afterwards from 3:00 until 5 p.m. In case of inclement weather, the entire service will be moved to The Royal Canadian Legion (Branch #40), St. George.

Past and current members of the military have been invited to attend the ceremony as well as representatives from the local, provincial and federal governments. Also family members of those killed at these two Charlotte County bases have been invited to attend the service as well.

Registration, due to seating limitations at the reception service and to assist with food preparation, is being asked (over 150 people were in attendance last year). To reserve your seat to the reception service please call (506) 456-3494.

SOURCE: The Saint Croix Courier (St. Stephen, NB) - August 10, 2010.

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